We’ve been getting the messages for years: Be sexually expressive. Live by your own sexual rules. Explore your sexual fantasies. Own your true sexual nature.
I, for one, am a huge supporter of anything that involves healthy sexuality. What I’m not a big fan of is the muddled meaning in “becoming sexually liberated.”
While sexual liberation is often touted as a form “healthy sexuality,” this isn’t always the case. We’re told that being sexually free involves showing what you want, saying what you want, doing what you want, and taking what you need. But does this pursuit of happiness have anything to do with personal choice?
We’ve been declared “sexually liberated.” But are we?
I’ve been teaching human sexuality at the university level for more than 10 years. One issue that many of my students struggle with is what it means to freely celebrate that you’re a sexual being. They’re confused by the voyeuristic, clothes-optional, “pleasure is power” sex party that society has been hosting for years.
Becoming liberated is supposedly about taking off your clothes, having sex with no meaning or attachment, and satiating your sexual desires. It’s an easy sell since most people would agree that there’s nothing wrong with seducing, being seduced, fueling your passion and claiming your orgasm.
Yet it’s this very push to be exhibitionists, to not necessarily connect with another, and to focus on the mechanics of your climax that makes this idea of being “liberated” a bit of a fallacy. True sexual freedom isn’t about that, but that’s the concept we’re being spoon-fed.
By freeing themselves of traditional social roles, women are told to unleash their inner felines and put their bodies on full display. Flaunting their figures has become synonymous with female empowerment.
Think of all the places we see this:
— MTV Spring Break;
— “Girls Gone Wild”;
— Porn star Jenna Jameson has created her own franchise;
— Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and Playboy’s “The Girls Next Door” flaunting it all;
— Female athletes and rock stars posing nude in magazines;
— Cardio striptease classes on “Oprah”;
Fulfilling our deepest sexual impulses involves becoming an erotomaniac, only with an ironic twist. Her satisfaction is about fulfilling his, as females of all ages seek to act out every male fantasy, starting with flashing her wares. (An erotomaniac relentlessly pursues the notion that her crush feels the same way she does).
Becoming sexually liberated also means having sex like a man.
Taking the cake on this message is CAKE, a female-run, sexuality enterprise that brags on its Web site that its forum for expressing sexuality “glorifies women’s freedom.” Its CLUB CAKE is advertised as a safe and fun environment for women to “achieve” female sexual equality.
In what’s been called “raunchy feminism,” CAKE’s events push sexual experimentation in the name of liberation. But this claim of feminism in action involves parties where women grind up against each other – and sometimes a whole lot more – for men who get special invites.
Now let’s be clear: I’m not saying you shouldn’t indulge your sweet tooth if you want to. That’s your own business, so do as you wish. My issue with this claim that your sexual nature is like a man’s is that it has become the excuse of female liberators who believe that taking it off, using somebody, or becoming sexually aggressive means sexual equality.
So are we sexually liberated? We’re not, as is outlined brilliantly in one of my favorite books, Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs.”
Here are some examples of how we are not sexually free:
— We’ve become disconnected from ourselves. People think, for example, that ads represent female sexuality, when they in fact they show how her body can be used and sold.
— We largely don’t know what it means to be sexually empowered. It’s rather ironic that the big businesses controlling our sexuality and those fighting “the system” are using the same forms of social pressure and sex acts in getting us to spread our legs.
— We don’t understand how to attain true sexual pleasure. We’re not being taught that tuning into ourselves and becoming sensually oriented is the means to orgasmic bliss.
— We don’t truly own our bodies. We barter them. For example, girls who see “porn sex” as the norm, use exhibitionism or trading sex for favors or social standing.
— There’s a sore lack of positive role models when it comes to personal choice in sexual pleasure and owning what is sexy. We’re all expected to be exhibitionist Barbie.
— We have a warped sense of what it means to be sexy. Some females are literally killing themselves to measure up to societal standards and what it means to be “sexual.”
The messaging on becoming “sexually liberated” isn’t healthy. It fails to outline what being sexually empowered really means, such as, you can say “no.” You can keep your clothes on. You can keep your sex life private. You can express yourself sexually in your way and not everybody else’s.
Sex researcher Dr. Shere Hite wrote: “Though the choices are theirs, really theirs, it can still take some time to wake up and see that one is free, in charge of one’s life, that all decisions are possible; like Sleeping Beauty waking up . . . after 2,000 years of misinformation women need a little time to begin thinking clearly.”
To me, it seems Sleeping Beauty — and everyone else — could use a good cup of coffee.
Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."